sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

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sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Zack Weinberg-2
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA256

regarding
https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
:

> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
> first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the
> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
> mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.

I get why this might seem like a good idea if you don't think about it
very hard, but it is a profoundly bad idea and I'm not kidding at all
when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke.  To be clear, I
am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.

The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
monetized via advertising.  That monoculture is a Bad Thing for the
usual reasons why monocultures are always Bad Things: it produces a
reality distortion bubble in which actions that would otherwise be
beyond the pale seem normal (such as selling highly private
information about your nominal customers, in this case); and it exerts
pressure to conform, to the extent where it can be hard to even
*imagine* alternatives.  We (Mozilla) should be taking active steps to
*undermine* it, right now, as a top priority.  Not adding to the ways
in which it is everywhere.

It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
interests from our users' interests.  We have always taken money from
third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
exactly the same placements.  The moment we change either of those
things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine.  I know I am doomsaying,
and I know there's a reason the camel's nose fallacy is called a
fallacy, but I have seen exactly this evolution happen to literally
every internets company that decided to try this tailored
advertisements thing, *since there has been an internets*.

And finally, it is a bad idea because even if you think this somehow
*does* undermine the ad monoculture (willing to be convinced, but
right now I don't see it), and even if you think you can keep that
camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
*already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
conclusions, and it will only get worse.  We shrug and move on when
people kvetch about the UI changes "to be just like Chrome" (whether
or not that is true), but this is *genuinely* a move toward Google's
modus operandi, and I could see it losing us ALL of the goodwill and
trust we have accumulated over the years.

zw
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Nicholas Nethercote
Some quotes from
http://www.zdnet.com/mozilla-to-deliver-ads-in-its-firefox-browser-7000026216/:

- "That last part sure sounds like ads to me."
- "This sounds even more like ads to me."
- "Yep, sounds like ads to all of us."
- "Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This
is not the Mozilla we thought we knew."

Nick


On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 5:26 PM, Zack Weinberg <[hidden email]> wrote:

> -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
> Hash: SHA256
>
> regarding
> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
> :
>
>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>> first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the
>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla's pursuit of our
>> mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.
>
> I get why this might seem like a good idea if you don't think about it
> very hard, but it is a profoundly bad idea and I'm not kidding at all
> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke.  To be clear, I
> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.
>
> The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
> the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
> monetized via advertising.  That monoculture is a Bad Thing for the
> usual reasons why monocultures are always Bad Things: it produces a
> reality distortion bubble in which actions that would otherwise be
> beyond the pale seem normal (such as selling highly private
> information about your nominal customers, in this case); and it exerts
> pressure to conform, to the extent where it can be hard to even
> *imagine* alternatives.  We (Mozilla) should be taking active steps to
> *undermine* it, right now, as a top priority.  Not adding to the ways
> in which it is everywhere.
>
> It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
> every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
> interests from our users' interests.  We have always taken money from
> third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
> kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
> exactly the same placements.  The moment we change either of those
> things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
> the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
> logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
> precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine.  I know I am doomsaying,
> and I know there's a reason the camel's nose fallacy is called a
> fallacy, but I have seen exactly this evolution happen to literally
> every internets company that decided to try this tailored
> advertisements thing, *since there has been an internets*.
>
> And finally, it is a bad idea because even if you think this somehow
> *does* undermine the ad monoculture (willing to be convinced, but
> right now I don't see it), and even if you think you can keep that
> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
> conclusions, and it will only get worse.  We shrug and move on when
> people kvetch about the UI changes "to be just like Chrome" (whether
> or not that is true), but this is *genuinely* a move toward Google's
> modus operandi, and I could see it losing us ALL of the goodwill and
> trust we have accumulated over the years.
>
> zw
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Marco Zehe-3
I totally agree with what Zack said and also with what is being stated
in the comments Nick quoted. I, too, am very uncomfortable with this
idea. Because this will, if it turns out to be attractive, also spread
to Firefox for Android and Firefox OS. And this means that ad partners
will want access to the Geo location data, so they can tailor their ads
towards the geographic location as well, and who knows what else they
demand once they realise they can apply pressure.

One of the reasons I don't use an Android device for more than Firefox
for Android testing is that Google want every bit of my personal data to
squeeze even more info out of me for personalized ads. Accessing call
logs and SMS? Root access via a system service that doesn't even have to
tell me what it updates and turns on if it so chooses? Eves-drop on me
with Google Now's "on via a voice command" 'feature'? No, thank you very
much!

At least with Apple I know they build the software to sell me their own
hardware. In fact the first thing I do on a new device is turn off that
unique ad identifier feature. And if I can, I buy or upgrade to
non-sponsored apps.

So far, I have always been confident in Mozilla that we put the privacy
of our users front and center. In fact, one of the main arguments I use
when recommending Firefox to friends and family is exactly that. So
whatever we do with those tiles, if they become a reality, WE MUST NOT
WEIVER FROM THAT! We MUST NOT sell our users to advertising companies in
a manner that we can no longer guarantee the safety of our user base's
privacy. Heck I'd even go as far as recommend we offer, as an
alternative, a kind of subscription model that keeps users ad-free in
those tiles on any device in exchange for a donation.

I'd put this in a comment below the original blog post if comments were
open. But since they aren't, I'm putting this here.

Marco

On 2/12/2014 6:12 AM, Nicholas Nethercote wrote:
> Some quotes from
>
http://www.zdnet.com/mozilla-to-deliver-ads-in-its-firefox-browser-7000026216/:

>
> - "That last part sure sounds like ads to me."
> - "This sounds even more like ads to me."
> - "Yep, sounds like ads to all of us."
> - "Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This
> is not the Mozilla we thought we knew."
>
> Nick
>
>
> On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 5:26 PM, Zack Weinberg <[hidden email]> wrote:
> regarding
> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
> :
>
> >>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
> >>> first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the
> >>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
> >>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
> >>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla's pursuit of our
> >>> mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
> >>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.
>
> I get why this might seem like a good idea if you don't think about it
> very hard, but it is a profoundly bad idea and I'm not kidding at all
> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke.  To be clear, I
> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.
>
> The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
> the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
> monetized via advertising.  That monoculture is a Bad Thing for the
> usual reasons why monocultures are always Bad Things: it produces a
> reality distortion bubble in which actions that would otherwise be
> beyond the pale seem normal (such as selling highly private
> information about your nominal customers, in this case); and it exerts
> pressure to conform, to the extent where it can be hard to even
> *imagine* alternatives.  We (Mozilla) should be taking active steps to
> *undermine* it, right now, as a top priority.  Not adding to the ways
> in which it is everywhere.
>
> It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
> every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
> interests from our users' interests.  We have always taken money from
> third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
> kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
> exactly the same placements.  The moment we change either of those
> things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
> the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
> logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
> precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine.  I know I am doomsaying,
> and I know there's a reason the camel's nose fallacy is called a
> fallacy, but I have seen exactly this evolution happen to literally
> every internets company that decided to try this tailored
> advertisements thing, *since there has been an internets*.
>
> And finally, it is a bad idea because even if you think this somehow
> *does* undermine the ad monoculture (willing to be convinced, but
> right now I don't see it), and even if you think you can keep that
> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
> conclusions, and it will only get worse.  We shrug and move on when
> people kvetch about the UI changes "to be just like Chrome" (whether
> or not that is true), but this is *genuinely* a move toward Google's
> modus operandi, and I could see it losing us ALL of the goodwill and
> trust we have accumulated over the years.
>
> zw
>> _______________________________________________
>> dev-planning mailing list
>> [hidden email]
>> https://lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/dev-planning
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> [hidden email]
> https://lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/dev-planning


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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Jim Porter
In reply to this post by Zack Weinberg-2
On 02/11/2014 07:26 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:

> regarding
> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
> :
>
>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>> first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the
>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
>> mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.

Thanks for bringing this up; I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.
To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes me
seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to get
published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to say
that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there really
no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really careful
before we start talking about putting ads into the actual browser"
before this post was published?

I obviously wasn't involved in any internal discussion with "Directory
Tiles", but I'm hoping that this is something that was already fairly
well-known amongst Firefox Desktop devs. If not, there is a Problem.
There have been occasions at Mozilla where I had a vague suspicion that
someone who wanted a controversial feature simply chose not to mention
the feature to relevant parties who might object on privacy/ethical/etc
grounds; I sincerely hope this was only my paranoia speaking, and not
the truth of the matter. The same applies to this situation as well.

If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
Mozilla as a whole).

This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
users, but our contributors (and employees!).

- Jim
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

pascal chevrel
Le 12/02/2014 08:42, Jim Porter a écrit :

> On 02/11/2014 07:26 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> regarding
>> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
>>
>> :
>>
>>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>>> first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the
>>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
>>> mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.
>
> Thanks for bringing this up; I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.
> To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes me
> seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to get
> published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to say
> that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there really
> no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really careful
> before we start talking about putting ads into the actual browser"
> before this post was published?
>
> I obviously wasn't involved in any internal discussion with "Directory
> Tiles", but I'm hoping that this is something that was already fairly
> well-known amongst Firefox Desktop devs. If not, there is a Problem.
> There have been occasions at Mozilla where I had a vague suspicion that
> someone who wanted a controversial feature simply chose not to mention
> the feature to relevant parties who might object on privacy/ethical/etc
> grounds; I sincerely hope this was only my paranoia speaking, and not
> the truth of the matter. The same applies to this situation as well.
>
> If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
> need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
> tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
> somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
> Mozilla as a whole).
>
> This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
> users, but our contributors (and employees!).
>
> - Jim


Hi

I think this thread should be cross-posted to mozilla.governance (doing
that on this reply) as this is not just an implementation issue but a
discussion about what Mozilla values are and how these values impact our
products.

I share the same concerns although I would like to know the details of
the implementation before dismissing it. For example if we get a couple
of sponsored ads on the first time a new user uses the new tab feature
and that this feature is not based on any communication of the user's
data, I think I would be OK with that. For me the touchy point from a
moral point of view for Mozilla is the user's personal data, not ads per
se. If we don't leak to advertisers any of the user data to display a
sponsored tile, then I think it's ok with our values to show an ad once
or twice on this page.

Of course by preserving the user's privacy, we can't provide details
allowing more targetted ads for which advertisers would pay more, but on
the other hand we don't need to make such compromises to maximize
revenue, especially since we wouldn't be an intermediary (as we are with
our search engine partners) and would therefore get the direct full
payment for the sponsored ads.

So to give an example, if a new French Firefox user sees the first time
he uses Firefox a tile about let's say a popular online shop in French
speaking countries (like fnac.com for example), and that we selected
this ad for the French Firefox build, then I think it's OK as we are not
basing this ad on the user's data.

If we intend to show tiles based on the user's data (browing, settings
in preferences...) then I think that it is a lot more touchy and that it
needs a wider discussion with all of Mozilla to make decisions based on
what is good for Mozilla in the long run and not what seems good on the
short term.

Regards,

Pascal
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Gijs Kruitbosch ("Hannibal")
In reply to this post by Jim Porter
On 12/02/2014 07:42, Jim Porter wrote:

> On 02/11/2014 07:26 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> regarding
>> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
>>
>> :
>>
>>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>>> first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the
>>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
>>> mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.
>
> Thanks for bringing this up; I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.
> To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes me
> seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to get
> published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to say
> that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there really
> no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really careful
> before we start talking about putting ads into the actual browser"
> before this post was published?
>
> I obviously wasn't involved in any internal discussion with "Directory
> Tiles", but I'm hoping that this is something that was already fairly
> well-known amongst Firefox Desktop devs.

It was presented and discussed at the Firefox desktop work week in
Paris, early January. There were many other ideas that were shot down
well before they were even shown to the Fx desktop team.

> If not, there is a Problem.
> There have been occasions at Mozilla where I had a vague suspicion that
> someone who wanted a controversial feature simply chose not to mention
> the feature to relevant parties who might object on privacy/ethical/etc
> grounds; I sincerely hope this was only my paranoia speaking, and not
> the truth of the matter. The same applies to this situation as well.
>
> If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
> need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
> tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
> somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
> Mozilla as a whole).
>
> This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
> users, but our contributors (and employees!).
>
> - Jim

As Bryan Clark put it on Twitter,

 > The "Mozilla ads" inside Firefox is actually taking us from
 > http://cl.ly/image/033X3C3R1m3f to http://cl.ly/image/3I172o2f202k
 > for first run

https://twitter.com/clarkbw/status/433333066514198528

To the best of my knowledge, there are no plans on using any kind of
user data for deciding what ends up on the empty tiles. As the blogpost
noted,

 > "Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem,
 > some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and
 > some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help
 > support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission"

which I would assume to be based on the Firefox locale, just like the
existing facilities for search providers in the search box.

I would also hope that we trust the other people in Mozilla to have the
user's interests at heart. That includes the people who decide what kind
of image/text is shown in the tile, and what tiles we would consider
shipping and what tiles we would not.

If you do not trust the people making these decisions, I would argue
that is a separate problem (to be taken up in .governance) to having the
ability to prepopulate these tiles.

We already prepopulate:
- bookmarks
- search providers
- links to Firefox/Mozilla support/help/information sites

We monetize some of what is in the search provider list (but not
everything).

I don't understand why implementing the ability to prepopulate the
tiles, and monetizing some (but not all) of them, has some people
commenting here so much more worried than the current state of affairs,
and why this would get us onto a slippery slope that we were not on before.

Note also that you can remove sites from your tiles, just like you can
remove (sponsored or otherwise) search providers. I would expect us to
continue providing that possibility.

~ Gijs
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Onno Ekker-2
In reply to this post by Zack Weinberg-2
Zack Weinberg wrote:

> regarding
> https://blog.mozilla.org/advancingcontent/2014/02/11/publisher-transformation-with-users-at-the-center/
> :
>
>> Directory Tiles will instead suggest pre-packaged content for
>> first-time users.   Some of these tile placements will be from the
>> Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given
>> geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from
>> hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our
>> mission.  The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such,
>> while still leading to content we think users will enjoy.
>
> I get why this might seem like a good idea if you don't think about it
> very hard, but it is a profoundly bad idea and I'm not kidding at all
> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke.  To be clear, I
> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.
>
> The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
> the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
> monetized via advertising.  That monoculture is a Bad Thing for the
> usual reasons why monocultures are always Bad Things: it produces a
> reality distortion bubble in which actions that would otherwise be
> beyond the pale seem normal (such as selling highly private
> information about your nominal customers, in this case); and it exerts
> pressure to conform, to the extent where it can be hard to even
> *imagine* alternatives.  We (Mozilla) should be taking active steps to
> *undermine* it, right now, as a top priority.  Not adding to the ways
> in which it is everywhere.
>
> It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
> every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
> interests from our users' interests.  We have always taken money from
> third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
> kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
> exactly the same placements.  The moment we change either of those
> things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
> the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
> logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
> precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine.  I know I am doomsaying,
> and I know there's a reason the camel's nose fallacy is called a
> fallacy, but I have seen exactly this evolution happen to literally
> every internets company that decided to try this tailored
> advertisements thing, *since there has been an internets*.
>
> And finally, it is a bad idea because even if you think this somehow
> *does* undermine the ad monoculture (willing to be convinced, but
> right now I don't see it), and even if you think you can keep that
> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
> conclusions, and it will only get worse.  We shrug and move on when
> people kvetch about the UI changes "to be just like Chrome" (whether
> or not that is true), but this is *genuinely* a move toward Google's
> modus operandi, and I could see it losing us ALL of the goodwill and
> trust we have accumulated over the years.
>
> zw
>

Being a keyboard junky I never saw the benefit of seeing the recent tabs
when I open a new tab. I just type a few characters in the location bar
and the page I want appears, most of the times.

That's why I toggled browser.newtabpage.enabled to false and set
browser.newtab.url to about:blank...

I don't suppose that's what Mozilla will do for new users though :-(

Onno
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Gijs Kruitbosch ("Hannibal")
In reply to this post by Gijs Kruitbosch ("Hannibal")
On 12/02/2014 10:11, Gijs Kruitbosch wrote:
>
> As Bryan Clark put it on Twitter,
>
>  > The "Mozilla ads" inside Firefox is actually taking us from
>  > http://cl.ly/image/033X3C3R1m3f to http://cl.ly/image/3I172o2f202k
>  > for first run
>
> https://twitter.com/clarkbw/status/433333066514198528

It was pointed out to me that these links (images) don't have a clear
text alternative. My apologies. A description follows:

The first image shows the about:newtab page as it currently looks for
new users: with 9 tiles, 8 of which are blank. The only other one
contains the first-run page (that is, the "Welcome to Firefox" page).

The second image shows a mockup of the feature, which has all 9 tiles
populated. The text labels for the tiles are:

"Firefox"
"Mozilla Foundation"
"Firefox OS"
"Electronic Frontier Foundation"
"Amazon"
"Facebook"
"Wikipedia"
"Twitter"
"Yahoo!"

The images shown in the tiles are the logos of the respective entities.

The tiles for Amazon, Facebook and Yahoo! have a small orange icon with
an arrow pointing to the top right; I'm not sure if this is an artifact
of the mockup or meant to indicate they are sponsored. Irrespective of
that, from what we heard in the work week, I am 99.99% certain the
mockup isn't at all final.

Gijs
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

David Rajchenbach-Teller-2
In reply to this post by Gijs Kruitbosch ("Hannibal")
On 2/12/14 11:11 AM, Gijs Kruitbosch wrote:
>> If indeed this happened without relevant people being in the loop, we
>> need to come up with ways to prevent that. For my part, I've always
>> tried to run my crazier ideas past a few people before posting it
>> somewhere more public to help prevent embarrassment (both for myself and
>> Mozilla as a whole).
>>
>> This sort of thing has the potential to erode the trust of not only our
>> users, but our contributors (and employees!).

We have run through several variants of this idea on the Firefox Desktop
Work Week in Paris. I seem to remember that there were ~40 Fx devs.
Several ideas were clearly rejected. However, there seems to have been a
general consensus among people involved in the conversation that this
idea could be executed in a way that would be both
- beneficial for the users;
- absolutely non-intrusive wrt privacy;
- monetizable.

> I don't understand why implementing the ability to prepopulate the
> tiles, and monetizing some (but not all) of them, has some people
> commenting here so much more worried than the current state of affairs,
> and why this would get us onto a slippery slope that we were not on before.
>
> Note also that you can remove sites from your tiles, just like you can
> remove (sponsored or otherwise) search providers. I would expect us to
> continue providing that possibility.

Not only this, but in several of the variants we discussed, sponsored
tiles would eventually disappear in favor of websites actually visited
by the user.

Cheers,
 David

--
David Rajchenbach-Teller, PhD
 Performance Team, Mozilla
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Gervase Markham
In reply to this post by Zack Weinberg-2
Hi Zack,

On 12/02/14 01:26, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke.  To be clear, I
> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.

Are you also opposed to pay-for-inclusion default bookmarks, and/or
pay-for-inclusion search engine list entries? If not, why are those two
things different?

> The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
> the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
> monetized via advertising.  

I'm not sure of the logic here. "No-one has worked out how to make money
on the Internet apart from via advertising. Therefore we should eschew
all revenue streams that people have some experience of working, and
only pursue ones which no-one has ever made work before"?

> It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
> every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
> interests from our users' interests.  We have always taken money from
> third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
> kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
> exactly the same placements.

I'm fairly sure that's not totally true. The search engine list is
locale-dependent.

> The moment we change either of those
> things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
> the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
> logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
> precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine.

Perhaps a tangent, but: if we logged everyone's clickstreams
client-side, and worked out which ad that meant the user should see
client-side, and the only thing the ad server ever found out was the
final decision (i.e. what ad was downloaded) and even that wasn't tied
to a unique identifier... would that be wrong?

My point: I think many, many Mozillians are deeply concerned about
privacy, and many are much more concerned about it than they were before
last June, and I don't think that all of them deciding suddenly not to
care about their own and other Firefox users' privacy is a likely
scenario. And even if it were, blanket bans on "we will never do X",
like laws, tend to not be good at predicting future circumstances.

Can privacy-preserving ad targetting be done? I'm genuinely not sure,
but we're never going to be able to find out if we simply said "we will
never do targetted ads".

> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
> conclusions, and it will only get worse.

Then we need to do better PR.

Gerv
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

mhoye
In reply to this post by Jim Porter
On 2/12/2014, 2:42 AM, Jim Porter wrote:
>  To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes
> me seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to
> get published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to
> say that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there
> really no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really
> careful before we start talking about putting ads into the actual
> browser" before this post was published?
Do you - does anyone on this thread - actually believe that none of the
people involved in making a big, user-facing change to our our most
successful product did not once raise their voices to ask if it was
aligned with our mission or our values, or considered the impact it
would have on our users? Nobody from engineering, UX, management, anyone?

Seriously?

- mhoye
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Johnathan Nightingale
In reply to this post by pascal chevrel
On Feb 12, 2014, at 9:40 AM, Ken Saunders wrote:

> I personally (as a user and Mozillian), have no problems with this being done because I understand the need and I know and trust Mozilla. The problem is, the greater majority of users and the public in general do not.
>
> Clearing up internal concerns about why more people aren't aware of this, the transparency process and so on are valid, but the greatest immediate need right now (in my opinion of course), is providing us (or is it we) Mozillians with some precise details so that we can accurately and with confidence, respond to the concerns of users, diffuse the hype, and if need be, defend this.


I was going to start my reply with something like "Let's all pause for a second, here and take a breath" but as I re-read the thread, almost everyone is already doing that and the discussion has been really thoughtful and measured. Thank you all for that. Headline writers get paid to inflame, it's nice to know that we have an ample supply of anti-inflammatories.

Headlines aside, let's get really specific. The thing we're talking about today is the experience of a new Firefox user with an empty profile. We give them a new tab page with a bunch of blank tiles. That's a crappy first experience and we should make it better. Darren's team looked at that, and realized that we could make this better for users and generate income for Mozilla if we were smart about it. Pre-populating those tiles, like we already pre-populate search providers, is just a better experience. As with search, we should make the choices that make the most sense for our users, we should make them localizable even if we have certain global defaults, and we should give users choice over whether to use them at all. Of course the implementation has to be done in ways that respect our users and serve our values as a project. I think that is all self-evident to people who read these groups, but I know that surprise and confusion is an uncomfortable place, and makes it hard
 er to reason from trust.

Like any other feature, this will land in m-c, be scrutinized, have bugs, fix bugs, get tested in pre-release, get redesigned, &c. Just like with search, we'll need to figure out which entries make sense, which ones are commercial and should have a revenue sharing piece, and which ones are non-commercial (like our inclusion of wikipedia search) and how we manage that list. This is early days, so if there aren't answers to some of those things yet, it's mostly because we're figuring them out together, not because they're devious answers that we haven't figured out how to "message". Again, I think this is self-evident to most people on the list, but reminders help.

 J


PS - Cross posting since the thread is in both places. Contrary to Pascal, I think this does belong in dev.planning so I'd recommend follow ups go there. I hear Pascal's argument that this goes to values, but our values impact our products and development across the board. Values should be part of every discussion, not just the remit of governance, imo.

---
Johnathan Nightingale
VP Firefox
@johnath

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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

PhillipJones-2
In reply to this post by Gervase Markham
Gervase Markham wrote:

> Hi Zack,
>
> On 12/02/14 01:26, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke.  To be clear, I
>> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
>> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
>> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
>> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.
>
> Are you also opposed to pay-for-inclusion default bookmarks, and/or
> pay-for-inclusion search engine list entries? If not, why are those two
> things different?
>
>> The most important reason this is a bad idea is, it acts to reinforce
>> the monocultural business model in which everything on the Internet is
>> monetized via advertising.
>
> I'm not sure of the logic here. "No-one has worked out how to make money
> on the Internet apart from via advertising. Therefore we should eschew
> all revenue streams that people have some experience of working, and
> only pursue ones which no-one has ever made work before"?
>
>> It is also a bad idea because it puts us in the same double-bind as
>> every other ad-supported business in this sector, deranging our own
>> interests from our users' interests.  We have always taken money from
>> third parties in exchange for product placement - the search engine
>> kickbacks - but they are highly generic products and all our users get
>> exactly the same placements.
>
> I'm fairly sure that's not totally true. The search engine list is
> locale-dependent.
>
>> The moment we change either of those
>> things, the Sell Everyone's Personal Information camel has its nose in
>> the tent, and a few years later we *will* be telling ourselves that
>> logging everyone's clickstreams and data-mining them for more
>> precisely tailored popover ads is Just Fine.
>
> Perhaps a tangent, but: if we logged everyone's clickstreams
> client-side, and worked out which ad that meant the user should see
> client-side, and the only thing the ad server ever found out was the
> final decision (i.e. what ad was downloaded) and even that wasn't tied
> to a unique identifier... would that be wrong?
>
> My point: I think many, many Mozillians are deeply concerned about
> privacy, and many are much more concerned about it than they were before
> last June, and I don't think that all of them deciding suddenly not to
> care about their own and other Firefox users' privacy is a likely
> scenario. And even if it were, blanket bans on "we will never do X",
> like laws, tend to not be good at predicting future circumstances.
>
> Can privacy-preserving ad targetting be done? I'm genuinely not sure,
> but we're never going to be able to find out if we simply said "we will
> never do targetted ads".
>
>> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
>> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
>> conclusions, and it will only get worse.
>
> Then we need to do better PR.
>
> Gerv
>
You should at least add a button with some teeth when person click No
Ads it mean no Ads that person receives no Ads what so ever.  Except
what is actually on web. Which AdBlock plus can take care. I don't want
my information email address web Address  regular address what car I own
whether I own a House, etc going to nobody except those I choose to do
so and even then would only be email address. This advertising has go
out of hand. We got to the point we can't even go to the little boys
room at your/my house without having to see advertising. I don't want it
, I don't look at it. I never want it. And I am less likely no more
likely not to buy from Internet advertisers. If I want something, I
research on the net find a Place I want to buy from.  The two scourges
of the Internet is number one Spam and number two Advertising. In fact I
consider all form of advertising on the Internet as spam that has been
given the green light. I wish Spam software would come up with a way to
kill advertising.

--
Phillip M. Jones, C.E.T.      "If it's Fixed, Don't Break it"
http://www.phillipmjones.net    mailto:[hidden email]
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Jim Porter
In reply to this post by Gervase Markham
On 02/12/2014 07:23 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:

> Hi Zack,
>
> On 12/02/14 01:26, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> when I say I hope someone will tell me it was a joke.  To be clear, I
>> am skeptical about the value of populating those blank tiles in
>> general, but it is specifically the notion of "sponsored" tiles that
>> is a terrible idea which we should immediately recant, possibly to the
>> extent of claiming that it *was* a joke even if it wasn't.
>
> Are you also opposed to pay-for-inclusion default bookmarks, and/or
> pay-for-inclusion search engine list entries? If not, why are those two
> things different?

I can't speak for others, but I'm not a huge fan of either of those. The
search engines don't bother me too much though, since as Zack said,
they're pretty generic (and form the basis of actually finding things on
the web). Everyone uses search engines on a regular basis, so including
them by default makes sense.

My issue with sponsored tab entries is that they would really only
affect new and inexperienced internet users; anyone with experience on
the web will almost certainly know about all the sponsored links we're
showing (I doubt a small company could afford the placement), and
chances are good they already have browser history they'd rather see
there (e.g. by importing their history from Chrome). Most of the places
that can afford something like this use the same business model: they
provide a free service to users in exchange for the chance to build a
salable consumer profile on that user.

Now, I'm not trying to condemn these sites for their business model. I
still use Google, Facebook, and friends despite it, but I'm comfortable
with doing so because I've made an informed decision. What makes me
uncomfortable is that we're creating a feature targeted at inexperienced
users who probably can't make an informed decision about what to do with
their personal information; it's not like Facebook is going to be
bluntly honest with new users that everything they say is being tracked.

>> camel ring-fenced (you can't, seriously, you just can't), we are
>> *already* taking negative publicity hits from people who jumped to
>> conclusions, and it will only get worse.
>
> Then we need to do better PR.

I'll admit that the tone of the article is part of what made me
uncomfortable, although it was so short on actual details that there
wasn't much else to go on. That's part of what I meant when I questioned
the genesis of this blog post. It seems tailor-made to make people
worried, and I'm surprised that it was published as is. Much of it is
from the point of view of business and marketing, and even the word
choice reflects that. Many people have a pretty dim view of online
advertising; just look at how popular AdBlock Plus is. If we're going to
expand the use of "sponsored content", I think we should be very careful
to show - in detail - how this actually benefits the user.

If the main thrust of this blog post had been about how to introduce new
users to the virtues of the web and to educate them about it benefits
and risks, I don't think anyone would be so worried, even if it did have
a blurb about sponsored content in there somewhere.

- Jim
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Jim Porter
In reply to this post by Jim Porter
On 02/12/2014 08:39 AM, Mike Hoye wrote:

> On 2/12/2014, 2:42 AM, Jim Porter wrote:
>>  To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of announcement that makes
>> me seriously wonder how this idea managed to survive long enough to
>> get published as an announcement. While it's perfectly legitimate to
>> say that the new tab page sucks for a new Firefox profile, was there
>> really no one who said "hey wait a minute, maybe we should be really
>> careful before we start talking about putting ads into the actual
>> browser" before this post was published?
> Do you - does anyone on this thread - actually believe that none of the
> people involved in making a big, user-facing change to our our most
> successful product did not once raise their voices to ask if it was
> aligned with our mission or our values, or considered the impact it
> would have on our users? Nobody from engineering, UX, management, anyone?

As I mentioned in another post, one of my biggest concerns is how the
blog post was presented. It doesn't actually show *how* this is going to
benefit users; it merely makes the assertion that it will. I have hope
that the Firefox Desktop developers I know would be pretty concerned
about that, and the lack of any substantive details on that front was
especially worrying.

If people did have ideas for how this would actually benefit new users
(e.g. by educating them about the web), then I think they should have
been presented in the blog post. Their absence was conspicuous.

The blog post also isn't up-front about the financial goals of the
sponsored content. For me to learn about that, I had to read a
supplementary message from the "Mozillians Town Hall" to see that it was
motivated by a fear that search engine referrals would cease to provide
sufficient revenue. That's not exactly surprising, but again its absence
in the blog post was conspicuous. Being up-front about that sort of
thing is a lot more reassuring.

You might say that my worries are because I don't trust Mozilla. And in
a way, you're right. I think Mozilla has a lot of potential for doing
good, but we're not incorruptible. No one is. When potentially-bad
developments arise, I think we need to show - not just tell - how this
is still in keeping with our values. We shouldn't expect people to take
it on faith.

- Jim
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Zack Weinberg-2
In reply to this post by Zack Weinberg-2
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA256

On 02/12/2014 12:12 AM, Nicholas Nethercote wrote:
> Some quotes from
> http://www.zdnet.com/mozilla-to-deliver-ads-in-its-firefox-browser-7000026216/:
>
> - "That last part sure sounds like ads to me."
> - "This sounds even more like ads to me."
> - "Yep, sounds like ads to all of us."
> - "Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This
> is not the Mozilla we thought we knew."

Being off in my own corner doing my own thing most of the time, I am not
surprised these days when the first I hear about some Mozilla initiative
is on Twitter, but in this case, it's not helping my opinion of the
proposal any that it doesn't appear to have been discussed at all on
either -security or -privacy prior to the announcement.  Reactions that
I've seen in the past 24h continue to be overwhelmingly negative, btw...
here's a sample:

"It is always an emotional moment when someone commits suicide."
- -- @textfiles

"Wait what? The reason I use Firefox is that it's not made by an ad
company!" -- @xor

"[the official announcement] is some serious weapons-grade spin. It?s
ads. We are talking about built-in banner ads in Firefox." -- @wilto

"Remember when @Firefox decided to block all third-party ad cookies by
default? Instead, ads of their own:" -- @rlove

"Disappointed that Mozilla is making money by putting ads in Firefox
rather than code that mines for bitcoin while the browser is running."
- -- @yanzhu [no, we shouldn't do that either -ed]

"I'm excited to see Firefox die off ASAP and stop holding web standards
back, and I'm glad Mozilla did its best to secure that today."
- -- @kaepora

zw
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Zack Weinberg-2
In reply to this post by pascal chevrel
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On 02/12/2014 10:59 AM, Johnathan Nightingale wrote:
>
> The thing we're talking about today is the experience of a new
> Firefox user with an empty profile. We give them a new tab page
> with a bunch of blank tiles. That's a crappy first experience and
> we should make it better.

So, it's certainly not the main thing I am objecting to here, but to
some extent I do in fact think a bunch of blank tiles is a GOOD
first-run experience, precisely because it expresses no opinion about
what you would like to do with this shiny new portal into the
infosphere that you have just downloaded.  Many new users will have
some concrete thing they wanted to do next, that they downloaded
Firefox in order to do; distracting them with social networks and
suchlike at that point might actually be a bad experience.

> Darren's team looked at that, and realized that we could make this
> better for users and generate income for Mozilla if we were smart
> about it. Pre-populating those tiles, like we already pre-populate
> search providers, is just a better experience. As with search, we
> should make the choices that make the most sense for our users, we
> should make them localizable even if we have certain global
> defaults, and we should give users choice over whether to use them
> at all. Of course the implementation has to be done in ways that
> respect our users and serve our values as a project. I think that
> is all self-evident to people who read these groups, but I know
> that surprise and confusion is an uncomfortable place, and makes it
> harder to reason from trust.

I will have more to say about this in a reply to Gerv downthread,
because he raised more specifically the issues that concern me, but I
want to say here that I see two key differences between pre-populated
search providers and pre-populated new tab tiles (paid or otherwise):
First, the search box genuinely *needs* to work out of the box (sorry,
pun unavoidable), whereas the new-tab screen being blank is not nearly
as big a deal.  Second, we have always taken product placement money
for the search box, the search bar on the old default homepage (does
that still exist?) and the default bookmarks (do *those* still exist?)
To be clear, I do think that it is, philosophically, wrong for us to
take money for those things.  But a known, well-documented, and
above-all *fixed* set of places where we have compromised our duty to
our users, in the service of continuing to exist as an organization,
is one thing; a *growing* set of such places is a much greater cause
for concern.

> Like any other feature, this will land in m-c, be scrutinized,
> have bugs, fix bugs, get tested in pre-release, get redesigned,
> &c. Just like with search, we'll need to figure out which entries
> make sense, which ones are commercial and should have a revenue
> sharing piece, and which ones are non-commercial (like our
> inclusion of wikipedia search) and how we manage that list. This is
> early days, so if there aren't answers to some of those things yet,
> it's mostly because we're figuring them out together, not because
> they're devious answers that we haven't figured out how to
> "message".

And strictly as a media-strategy concern, I think we should have had
this conversation BEFORE posting an announcement on an official blog
that makes this sound like it's already much more worked out than
you're now telling me it is.

zw
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Chris Heilmann
In reply to this post by Zack Weinberg-2
Ah Twitter, where research and insights blossom and people always consider the effects their needling has on the people who work hard on the things that were just called dead and broken.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Zack Weinberg" <[hidden email]>
To: [hidden email]
Sent: Wednesday, 12 February, 2014 10:51:27 PM
Subject: Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

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On 02/12/2014 12:12 AM, Nicholas Nethercote wrote:
> Some quotes from
> http://www.zdnet.com/mozilla-to-deliver-ads-in-its-firefox-browser-7000026216/:
>
> - "That last part sure sounds like ads to me."
> - "This sounds even more like ads to me."
> - "Yep, sounds like ads to all of us."
> - "Still, this move comes not just as a surprise but as a shock. This
> is not the Mozilla we thought we knew."

Being off in my own corner doing my own thing most of the time, I am not
surprised these days when the first I hear about some Mozilla initiative
is on Twitter, but in this case, it's not helping my opinion of the
proposal any that it doesn't appear to have been discussed at all on
either -security or -privacy prior to the announcement.  Reactions that
I've seen in the past 24h continue to be overwhelmingly negative, btw...
here's a sample:

"It is always an emotional moment when someone commits suicide."
- -- @textfiles

"Wait what? The reason I use Firefox is that it's not made by an ad
company!" -- @xor

"[the official announcement] is some serious weapons-grade spin. It?s
ads. We are talking about built-in banner ads in Firefox." -- @wilto

"Remember when @Firefox decided to block all third-party ad cookies by
default? Instead, ads of their own:" -- @rlove

"Disappointed that Mozilla is making money by putting ads in Firefox
rather than code that mines for bitcoin while the browser is running."
- -- @yanzhu [no, we shouldn't do that either -ed]

"I'm excited to see Firefox die off ASAP and stop holding web standards
back, and I'm glad Mozilla did its best to secure that today."
- -- @kaepora

zw
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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Hubert Figuière
In reply to this post by Zack Weinberg-2
On 12/02/14 06:07 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
> So, it's certainly not the main thing I am objecting to here, but to
> some extent I do in fact think a bunch of blank tiles is a GOOD
> first-run experience, precisely because it expresses no opinion about
> what you would like to do with this shiny new portal into the
> infosphere that you have just downloaded.  Many new users will have
> some concrete thing they wanted to do next, that they downloaded
> Firefox in order to do; distracting them with social networks and
> suchlike at that point might actually be a bad experience.

Just a question:

How does a bookmark in a tile differ from a bookmark in the bookmarks or
the bookmark bar?

How does this encroach on users' privacy?

Perhaps what we are missing here is an explanation on how this feature work.

Hub


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Re: sponsored new tab tiles - please tell me this is a (bad) joke

Zack Weinberg-2
In reply to this post by Zack Weinberg-2
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On 02/12/2014 06:15 PM, Hubert Figuière wrote:

> On 12/02/14 06:07 PM, Zack Weinberg wrote:
>> So, it's certainly not the main thing I am objecting to here, but
>> to some extent I do in fact think a bunch of blank tiles is a
>> GOOD first-run experience, precisely because it expresses no
>> opinion about what you would like to do with this shiny new
>> portal into the infosphere that you have just downloaded.  Many
>> new users will have some concrete thing they wanted to do next,
>> that they downloaded Firefox in order to do; distracting them
>> with social networks and suchlike at that point might actually be
>> a bad experience.
>
> Just a question:
>
> How does a bookmark in a tile differ from a bookmark in the
> bookmarks or the bookmark bar?

A tile is far more prominent - you have to click at least once to see
bookmarks in the menu or the bar at all.

> How does this encroach on users' privacy?

That's not clear to me at this stage.  Prepopulated things that depend
in no way on users' personal information - not even on demographic
categories like the locale - would be much less problematic than
prepopulated tiles that do, but the way the feature was described, it
sounded like there was going to be some degree of dependence on user
information, and that more than anything else is what I hope to
squelch right now before we lose any more goodwill.

zw
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